While this cake was baking in the oven, B. came in the kitchen. Stupidly, I felt the urge to give an explanation for baking a cake (as if that’s ever needed) and said that it was for the team of people who had very kindly welcomed me in their office during my work placement. This explanation was, of course, true. This cake was (for it’s well and truly finished, to the last crumb) my way of thanking them for the time, patience and dedication they put into showing me what they do for a living and teaching me how to do it.
B. then said that, thinking about it, he had never had as much cake as since when he had started working. Birthdays, pregnancy announcements, newcomers and leavers, every occasion seems to be a good excuse to bring in cakes, pies and snacks of various nature. B. and some of his colleagues have even organised themselves into a lunch club called SASS (yes, it’s an acronym, but I won’t reveal what it stands for) whose members, who it seems only fitting I should now salute, take in turns to bring cakes in on Thursdays and biscuits on Tuesdays.
This left me pondering on the importance of food as a way of bringing informality into an otherwise formal context such as the workplace. Sharing slices of cake is perhaps the simplest and quickest way to switch from work mode into people mode and get to know your colleagues in ways you otherwise wouldn’t. Should that fail, you still have cake. And what a cake this is: simple and straightforward chocolate cake with a twist. The chocolate is grated instead of melted, leaving you with a deliciously freckled soft crumb filled with jam. A pleasure to eat, a pleasure to look at and a pleasure to share: the best kind of cake.
Ingredients (makes a 20×20 cm, two-layered cake or a loaf cake)
100 gr dark chocolate
100 gr unsalted butter, softened
150 gr caster sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
125 ml whole milk, at room temperature
150 gr wholemeal plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
about 3 tbsp apricot jam (or marmalade)
sugar, to dust (optional)
Preheat your oven to 175°C and grease two 20×20 cm cake tins. I lined mine with a circle of baking parchment on the bottom and greased the sides for easy release.
Start by grating the chocolate. You can do it using a fine grater or one that will give you bigger shavings of chocolate, it’s up to you. In any case, make sure you work quickly, otherwise a good amount of chocolate will end up melted on your hands (experience docet). Set aside.
In a bowl, cream butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the eggs and mix well, then add the milk and mix again. A this point the mixture is likely to split. Don’t worry, it will get better once you add the flour and anyway it won’t matter once the cake is baked. Add the grated chocolate and mix. Finally, add the flour and baking powder and fold in with a metal spoon until just incorporated.
Divide the batter equally between the two tins, level the mixture with a spatula or the back of a spoon and bake for about 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool down on a wire rack before carefully taking the cakes out of the tins.
Spread the jam on the side of one of the cakes, then press the other cake on top, making sure you’re using the flattest side of each cake to sandwich them together. Dust with icing sugar and, well, eat. Or fit into a plastic container and take it to work.